Breaking Down Silos in the Finance Department

February 3, 2022 Mimi Torrington

silos in the finance department - building

It’s no secret that, historically, the finance roles within most organizations tend to be incredibly siloed, but how to do you break down those silos in the finance department? Finance usually has their spot in the building, and they tend to keep to themselves and don't interact with a lot of the other teams, unless there’s an issue.

But just because finance teams are siloed today, that doesn’t mean it’s the best way for them to perform. In fact, most companies could stand to have much more integration between their finance teams and the rest of the organization.

On this episode of CFO Weekly, our guest is David Burt. David is the Chief Financial Officer at ServiceTitan, the world’s leading all-in-one software for commercial and residential HVAC, plumbing, electrical and other service businesses.

David had a lot to say on the topic of the finance team, and how you can better integrate your finance teams with the rest of your organization to drive and support company growth, rather than hinder it.

Breaking Down Silos in Finance

support staff breaking finance silos

In a lot of companies, finance teams tend to keep to themselves, but the finance team can add a tremendous amount of value to teams outside of their direct spheres of influence, even helping teams on their growth trajectories. However, without the right mindset, it can also be easy for them to become a drag on the rest of the team.

How can your finance team break down the silos and start to integrate with the rest of the organization?

First, find time to meet with individual business owners and try to better understand their specific business problems. Don’t do it just to show your face and be seen, but do it in order to bring about real change. It may mean taking a project that’s outside of your wheelhouse or job description, but it will pay dividends in the future.

Second, stop viewing certain functions as “support functions.” Typically, functions like HR, finance, facilities, legal, and others, are relegated to the “support function” vernacular, and all it does is make the people in those functions feel as if they’re not a part of the greater team as a whole. It may seem like a simple language change, but a team only works if everybody on the team feels a part.

“When you cast people as ‘support staff,’ it implies that they’re there to take direction from someone else and execute exactly on that direction," Burt said.

And third, spend time with your customers, particularly if you’re a software company. It can be easy to sit behind the knowledge of reports and sales and retention, but if you don't spend time with your customers, you don't get the chance to really know them and understand them. And knowing them helps you drive every part of the business.

Building a High-Performing Team

deal breakers quote

Part of the way you can drive your finance team to success is by putting together a winning team. We’re all only as good as the people we surround ourselves with, so how do you go about that?

Make sure you have a clear understanding of what the team is seeking to achieve and ensure that everybody has clarity around the goals and the mission. Not in a warm and fuzzy sense, but in a very clear-cut, context-driven, communicative way.

You also want to hire your executives, those who are going to be shaping the mission and vision of the company long-term, in a way that allows you to scale. While there’s a formula for hiring, a strong mix of curiosity and exceptional ethics in business judgment is a good place to start for any hire.

“When hiring executives, curiosity and exceptional ethics are two things that are absolute deal breakers for me,” Burt said.

Make sure innovation is at the heart of what you do. We have an innate ability to continuously look at what you’re doing and ask, “how could we do this better?”

And don't forget to celebrate the wins. Take the time to actually appreciate the genuine way in which your team is solving problems. Too often, we focus on the faults rather than celebrating the wins.

Helping & Not Hindering Progress

finance department silos

Finally, how do you ensure that your finance team is helping to propel growth? First, set up a framework of approving spending that is tied to some sort of measurable metric. Some common language across the organization. Cut down as many approvals as possible, and make the entire process easier.

“There is a greater cost to not doing something and missing out on the learning versus doing something, failing, and then rapidly learning from that failure," Burt said.

Second, allow people to fail. It may sound very “silicon valley” to say, but if you’re going to take bets, if you're going to try something new and daring, measure those bets, document them, and acknowledge them. And if they don’t work, learn from them.

Interested in removing silos within your organization? Don't miss this article: Breaking Down Barriers: How To Take F&A Out Of The Enterprise Silo.

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